Regulatory Action Center Review – March 19, 2020

Welcome to FreedomWorks Foundation’s third regulatory review of 2020! Our Regulatory Action Center proudly updates you with the latest regulatory actions from the swamp.This week, we bring you a special coronavirus edition, highlighting some of the positive ways our government is responding administratively. Check back next week for the next edition.

1. FDA Streamlined the Development of Diagnostic Tests

As coronavirus has quickly swept the world, one of the major critiques of the federal response has been a lack of test availability. This was due, in no small part, to the unnecessarily tight regulatory structure that surrounds medical testing. Weeks after the virus began to spread, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) maintained a regulatory monopoly as the nation’s sole diagnostic laboratory. Even worse, the tests CDC did produce turned out to be faulty. Fortunately, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn recognized the need to allow the free market to do what it does best and innovate. The FDA’s decision will dramatically increase the number of testing laboratories, helping our communities better respond to the growth of the virus. This one seemingly minor regulatory change has been so significant that private companies are already advertising at-home testing.

2. CMS Expanded Telehealth Services

Free market advocates have long been proponents of expanding telehealth services as a way to reach rural and elderly populations. It is a shame that it took a global pandemic to see movement on telehealth. President Trump told the nation in a press conference on Tuesday that “Medicare patients can now visit any doctor by phone or videoconference at no additional cost.” Furthermore, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have suspended rules that prevent doctors from practicing across state lines. Hopefully the success of telehealth in this crisis will demonstrate how effective and efficient these services would be for all Americans, not just those on Medicare.

3. IRS Tax Deferrals

On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced a long awaited plan for the Internal Revenue Service to defer some tax payments. Under the temporary deferral “individuals would be able to defer up to $1 million and corporations would be able to defer up to $10 million for 90 days without penalties and interest.” Furthermore, tax returns that were due on April 15 have been delayed until July 15.

4. Police Won’t Prosecute Innocuous Crimes

Around the countries, police forces are responding to the crisis by restricting officers to essential calls. This means that, in many jurisdictions, police have suspended unnecessary traffic stops and searches in the interest of public safety. Overcriminalization has become a major problem in our country, and reducing the size and scope of state and federal law enforcement has been a goal of criminal justice reformers. It is important to note that this change will not endanger the public in any way, as police are merely “limit[ing] responses to certain incidents and prioritiz[ing] arrests of serious and violent offenses over some misdemeanor crimes.” However, this should demonstrate that many of these misdemeanor offenses that would normally be prosecuted serve no real purpose in service of public safety.

5. Texas Waived Regulations to Allow Delivery of Alcohol

It’s no secret that small businesses like bars and restaurants are taking an especially hard hit due to the coronavirus. In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott waived regulations in order to allow bars and restaurants to deliver alcoholic beverages along with food. A large percentage of restaurant revenue — and practically all bar revenue — comes from selling beverages. Allowing these small businesses to sell their products remotely, though it may seem frivolous, has the potential to provide much needed revenue to those businesses most hurt by the pandemic. Beyond the economic reasons, how cool is it that you can have a margarita delivered?

6. Medicaid Waivers

The Trump administration has also taken steps to expand Medicaid waivers On Tuesday, CMS announced that they would extend the first Medicaid waiver to Florida, one of the states hardest hit by the pandemic. As CMS Administrator Seema Verma told the White House Press Corps, the change will allow states “to waive prior authorization requirements, make it easier for out-of-state providers to provide care, allow care in alternative settings from a hospital or doctor’s office, suspend certain nursing home screening requirements to lower administrative burden and extend deadlines for appeals and state fair hearing requests.” The need to waive so many rules in a crisis demonstrates that much of the existing regulatory framework is, at best, unnecessary and may have been an impediment to quality care.

7. Suspension of Evictions and Foreclosures

In a time of national crisis, one of the most uncertain and fearful things that a person can experience is the thought of becoming homeless. In recognition of this, the Trump administration announced on Wednesday that they would be ordering that his administration will be “suspending all foreclosures and evictions until the end of April.” In doing so, the Trump administration has assured thousands of Americans that they won’t end up living on the street because they were laid off due to a global pandemic.

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